Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An L.A. ’burb is mired in gangs, cartels and south-of-the-border-style politics

Welcome to post-American America... where all standards are lowered a little every day.
The Town the Law Forgot
By Jeffrey Anderson
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 - 12:00 pm

Cudahy is a strange little city; some say a scary one.

In 2003, city leaders fired the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department — which had policed Cudahy for 14 years, focusing on gang and drug crime — in favor of a nearby municipal police force that recently erupted over public allegations of police brutality and kickbacks to police and city officials from a towing company.
In Cudahy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has seized almost 20 times more cocaine over the past five years than in Bell, a bordering city of similar size, and the city suffers more crime per capita than small towns nearby.
It’s a city with 200 active gang members, where shootings are common though homicide rare — that is, until 11 killings occurred in the wake of the sheriff’s departure in 2003.
Cudahy leaders seem satisfied.
Consider the tone-deaf reaction of Cudahy City Manager George Perez in early February, after the news broke on KNBC Channel 4 and in La Opinión, a Spanish-language daily, that the city of Maywood, currently under a $2-million-a-year contract to police Cudahy, was facing a state takeover because the police department — the Maywood-Cudahy Police Department — is so out of control. “Police problems in Maywood have nothing to do with us,” said Perez. “Our city council is happy, and our citizens are too.”
Mexican-style political boss: City Manager George Perez Cudahy resembles a Mexican border town more than it does a Los Angeles suburb. Entrenched gangs and Mexican drug trafficking have trapped working-class legal and illegal immigrants in a cycle of violence and fear, in a city where less than a quarter of the 28,000 residents are eligible to vote. An uneducated city council, a deeply troubled police force imported from Maywood two towns over, and the raw power of the 18th Street Gang — a complex criminal organization with a knack for setting up business fronts and obscuring underground drug activity — make Cudahy residents seem like hostages in their own city.
Since his revolving-door ascent from the council to city manager in 2000, Perez’s salary has risen by $30,000 — more than most residents make in a year — to $120,000. Meanwhile, the city’s problems remain dire: poverty, density, gangs and drugs...


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